I once met someone from another state at a housewarming party. He said he is a spiritual teacher in so & so spiritual organization. I said, “Oh that’s nice.” A friend who was also present revealed that I too was interested in spirituality. Then the visitor asked me, “what practice do you engage in?” I replied, “I do a homam everyday.” He said, “we don’t do rituals. We meditate.” I said, “That’s great. I also meditate in front of fire as poornahuti burns.” He said, “but we don’t meditate on any forms - we meditate on the formless.”
Though I started the conversation disinterestedly, the dismissive look on his face when I mentioned “homam” and the proud face he made when mentioning “formless” signaled me to engage him further. So I enquired how he “meditated on the formless”.
He explained, “we imagine a big reservoir of energy above us, from which we are deriving energy and refilling ourselves with energy. As you meditate, you refill yourself with energy and that empowers you.”
I decided to give him a piece of my mind. I said:
“Well, whether you specifically visualize like that or not, there IS an infinite reservoir of energy that supports every desire, awareness and action that every being engages in.
“Whether a yogi is meditating on the Formless or a pig is eating junk from gutter, the same Cosmic Energy drives both actions!
“Even your act of visualizing that there is a big reservoir of energy from which you are deriving energy, is driven by the same Cosmic Energy! smile emoticon
“By the way, the energy you are visualizing is a form too. This is not really worshiping the formless.”
He then said that he assumed I was just a “ritualist” and wanted to educate me on the “Formless meditation”. He said that he now understood that I was not just a ritualist and knew Vedanta as well.
Even light, sound and energy is a form. The real “formless” supreme being is the source all forms - lights, sounds, energy and any other entities that we can perceive or contemplate or discuss.
How do we then worship the formless supreme Lord? This is what Lord Shiva taught Vasishtha in “Yoga Vaasishtham”:
“He touches all, he tastes all, he hears all, he thinks through all though he is beyond thinking. He does everything at all times, he dwells in all, he is the all. Thus should one contemplate him.
“The Lord is not to be worshipped by material substances but by one’s own consciousness. Not by waving of lamps nor lighting incense, nor by offering flowers nor even by offering food or sandal paste. He is worshipped by self-realization alone. This is the supreme meditation, this is the supreme worship: the continuous and unbroken awareness of the indwelling presence, inner light or consciousness!
“While doing WHATEVER one is doing - seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing or talking - one should realize one’s essential nature as pure consciousness and offer those actions as worship to Lord.
“His worship is performed day and night perpetually, with the objects that are spontaneously and effortlessly obtained, and are offered to the Lord with a mind firmly established in equanimity and right spirit.
“The Lord should be worshipped by means of all enjoyments that the body enjoys, through eating, drinking, being with one’s consort and such other pleasures. The Lord should be worshipped with illnesses and every sort of unhappiness or suffering one experiences. The Lord should be worshipped with all of one’s activities, including life and death. The Lord should be worshipped with one’s poverty and prosperity. The Lord should be worshipped with friendship and love and even with fights and quarrels as well with sports and other pastimes, and with manifestations of the emotions of attraction and aversion.
“The Lord should be worshipped with all kinds of pleasures that come to one unsought, whether those pleasures are sanctioned by scriptures or forbidden by them. The Lord should be worshipped with those which are regarded as desirables and others which are regarded as undesirable, with those that are considered appropriate and others that are considered inappropriate.
“For this worship, one should abandon what is lost or unavailable and one should accept, receive and use what is available and comes to one spontaneously and unsought.”
Basically, one should accept every experience that comes to one unsought (possibly as a result, however, of desire and effort from the past!) and engage in every action that seems natural and spontaneous in the circumstances. While doing so, one should offer every experience and action to Lord and visualize that Lord is the experiencer and the actor.
Such attitude on a 24x7 basis is the only way to worship the Formless Supreme Lord as per Lord Shiva!
The key is not what one experiences and what one does. The key is the attitude - acceptance, naturalness, spontaneity and equanimity. The key is contemplating the Lord as the experiencer in every experience and as the actor in every action.
When it comes to spirituality, people have stereotypes in their minds, which are triggered by certain keywords. For example, if you say that you do a havan everyday, a Vedantin or “Gyani” may think “oh, he is just a karmakandi or ritualist”. If you say “all is Self”, a bhakta may think “oh, he is just a Mayavadi non-dualist or pseudo-gyani”.
One may think his meditation is superior to your ritual or his “formless” meditation is superior to your meditation on Krishna or Kali, but all that is silly. One’s ritual may be so sublime and transform one internally, while another’s meditation may just be mechanical, be like a “ritual” smile emoticon and cause no internal transformation.
In the end, all these notions of superiority and inferiority are plain dumb. What matters is internal transformation. That can come in ANY path, when there is a confluence between intent, effort and Grace.
It is unwise to go shopping around and try to find the “perfect” or “fastest” path. Greed is never a formula for spiritual progress - patience and surrender are.
It is also silly to be proud of one’s path or think that one’s path is superior. Instead, walk the path you picked and focus on yourself. Understand your agendas, motives and instincts and try to transform them. Each time you fall and break, pick up the pieces and keep walking.
Surrender to Him and patiently wait for His grace, even as you keep walking..